Traumatic brain injury survivor and motivational speaker Scott Maloney told Catawba College students gathered Oct. 23 on campus that he is "the king of poor decision-making" who is sharing his cautionary tale to "save a life."
Maloney, who fell from his dormitory roof in 2004 after a Friday night of beer drinking, spoke at Catawba as part of the college's Alcohol Awareness Week activities (Oct. 19-25). Today, thanks to modern medicine, prayer and determination, the 29-year-old Maloney, a 2005 graduate of Becker College in Worcester, Mass., has made an astonishing, almost full recovery, but his lesson about alcohol use and abuse is one he shares with college students throughout the country.
Drinking on college and university campuses, although "considered a rite of passage" and "the social norm," Maloney said, "has reached epidemic proportions and the problem needs to be controlled." A night of drinking, "often ends in tragedy," he noted, adding, "I know, I'm one of those tragedies."
Defining "D.A.D." behavior as "dumb and destructive" behavior, he asked the students to raise their hands if they knew someone who was injured by such behavior. A sea of hands went up.
"The proof of the truth of what I speak is in everyone's hands," Maloney quipped.
Saying he and has family "have lived through an unspeakable nightmare," Maloney admonished students to be wary of "liquid courage" that led to his fall from the rooftop. He recalled the late night phone call his parents received telling them to get to the hospital as soon as possible. He recalled his parents telling him later that the doctors told them to "say goodbye."
"My parents pushed, pulled and prayed – ‘Give him a chance, give him a life,'" he shared. "I nearly died because of a few beers. I was considered lucky.
"I was like the underdog in the game of life. But this sort of lucky is not the definition that comes to mine when I think 'lucky.' "
By spending hours of rehabilitation, Maloney began making a substantial physical recovery, but emotionally, he said, he was "spiraling downward." He recalled lyrics from a Toby Keith song that expressed his state of mind and his question at that time: "Can I become 'as good as I once was?' "
His common sense answered that question: "If you don't have the best of everything, make the best of what you've got."
As he wrapped up his remarks, he asked the Catawba students to remember three things about his visit to campus: 1) use your head; 2) remember my limp; and 3) remember to do your best.
Don't be caught up in what the crowd and your peers are doing, Maloney warned. "If they're trying to bring you down, there's only one reason – because you're above them. Stay above them."
He concluded his presentation this way: "There's only one type of fish that swims with the current all of the time. Do you know what type?"
His answer was a surprise to many: "A dead one," he said.
PHOTOS: Alcohol Awareness Week
Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP)